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Never mind the Champions League knockouts, who drops into the Europa League?

I mean, we know Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG, Bayer Munich, the moneybags will continue playing. The real battle is for third and the chance to continue playing against sides you might well have a chance against. Right?

Well, at least we won't have this matchup again!!
Well, at least we won't have this matchup again!!
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The group stages of the Champions League are pretty predictable--at least the top two in each group are.  The third placed team drops down into the Europa League round of 32, and often can do quite well in that competition.  So, who has made it this year?

Group A: No surprise here, it's Olympiakos.  Malmo were bound for fourth before play even started, and Atleti and Juve figured to finish first and second.  It was a bit tighter than many expected, but that's what happened.

Group B: This was a surprise, as Liverpool managed to stumble to third place, allowing Swiss side Basel to become somebody's fodder in the next round.

Group C: Monaco and Bayer LEverkusen looked to be the class of this group, and so it happened.  A disappointing showing for Benfica ; Zenit St Petersburg take the third spot.   (Villarreal have bad memories of their fans, who trashed El Madrigal some years back, and of ex-Porto man Hulk, so this is a team to avoid shoudl we qualify for the Europa League knockouts).

Group D: I don't know why they even bothered to play these matches.  Andelecht a clear third, nowhere near the top two, Galatsaray were hopeless.

Group E: The closest the CL came this year to a "Group of Death", with über-rich Bayern Munich, incredibly wealthy Manchester City and American-owned Roma all in the group.  CSKA Moscow made up the numbers.  I'm delighted for Manuel Pellegrini that City came second; Roma drop to the Europa League.

Group F: A group with Barca, PSG, Ajax, and APOEL Nicosia.  Even if you don't know anything about soccer, you can probably figure out who finished third.  Ajax it is!

Group G: Well, with all respect to our friend Bostjan at Barca Blaugranes, we knew Maribor would finish last.  As for third....middling German side Schalke 04 finished second, so middling Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon go down into the Europa League.

Group H:  BATE Borisov had no chance, of course, and dutifully finished last.  Porto (with Oliver Torres) a clear first, and Shaktar Donetsk and Athletic Club fighting it out for second.  Big props to Donetsk, whose ground is unusable because of the Ukrainian 'civil conflict', for finishing second; Athletic Bilbao goes into the Europa League.

Of these, I'd prefer to avoid Zenit, mostly because of their reitinous fans and bad memories of Hulk running riot against us (I know, it.s OK, José Catalá plays in Greece now), and Liverpool, because of their support.  Other than that....